HOUSTON – Dozens of Houston police officers rushed into Ben Taub Hospital Tuesday while patients and staff were running out after reports of a possible active shooter. Two hours later, it appeared to be a misunderstanding or false alarm.
Police Chief Art Acevedo said there were multiple calls just before 2 p.m. about an active shooter involving a bald white male with a gun. After a thorough sweep of every floor, officers found nothing.
“We have not found anyone injured. We have not found anyone shot and we have not found a suspect,” Acevedo said.
Each floor was searched again before patients and staff were allowed back inside about two hours after the scare started.
Searches at Ben Taub completed, situation is stable and normal hospital operations resuming. Thank you all for your patience.
— Chief Art Acevedo (@ArtAcevedo) February 21, 2017
Acevedo said officers will check security cameras to try and figure out how the whole thing started.
“Who knows what this ends up to be, but I have no reason to believe these weren’t well-intentioned people thinking there was an active shooter,” the chief said.
When the first calls came in, officers stormed the hospital with guns drawn, according to KHOU 11 News reporter Stephanie Whitfield.
SWAT and K9 units also hustled to the scene.
Baylor College of Medicine sent the following alert to staff members: “Active shooter situation at Ben Taub Hospital. Do not go to Ben Taub Hospital. If at Ben Taub, follow emergency response guidelines of the hospital.”
Some patients were wheeled outside on gurneys where a triage area was set up. Dozens of doctors and nurses took care of them.
More seriously ill patients were taken by ambulance to nearby hospitals.
“It was challenging, but again at this time, fortunately all patients are accounted for and fortunately are very safe,” said Ben Taub Medical Director Dr. Tovar.
It took about an hour to fully evacuate the hospital because many patients couldn’t walk out on their own.
“The nurses came and got me and out me and my friend in a room,” one patient said. “Then the nurse put me in a wheelchair and rolled me down and said, ‘The only way you can get down is by the steps’. And said,’There’s been a shooting on the second floor.'”
Several people who evacuated from the hospital gathered across the street.
One employee said she was so scared she barricaded herself inside her office.
“I was working in my office, and I overheard the nurses mention an active shooter. That’s when I immediately turned off my computers, pushed my chairs against the door — my door is locked all the time,” said Elissa Alexis.
She put her phone on silent because she was afraid a possible gunman would hear it ringing.
“And I wasn’t answering the phone. I made sure to take texts, though, to tell my supervisor and my mom that I was OK.”
Students from St. Mark’s Episcopal Middle School were also in the hospital to share their artwork with Ben Taub cardiology patients.
— St. Mark’s (@stmeshouston) February 21, 2017
Some worried St. Mark’s parents rushed to the hospital to check on their children. They were all safe and were later seen leaving on a school bus.
Ben Taub, in the heart of the Texas Medical Center, is a level one trauma center which cares for about 100,000 emergency patients a year.
(© 2017 KHOU)